Floe Lake and Numa Pass backpacking trail
Floe Lake is one of the most photogenic lakes in the Rockies and the backpack to it and beyond to Numa Pass is one of the most colorful as wildflowers bloom in the summer and larch trees below the pass turn brilliantly gold in the fall.
From Banff head west on the Trans Canada towards Lake Louise. At Castle Junction take the 93S towards Radium Hot Springs and continue 93S as you enter British Columbia. The Floe Lake trailhead will be well signed to your right, after about 19.9mi from where you turned onto the 93S.
|When to do|
July - September
Floe Lake Campground
Yes - On Leash
Older Children only
Out and back
Floe Lake and Numa Pass
Route Description for Floe Lake and Numa Pass
Backpacking to Floe Lake in Kootenay National Park is a wonderful 1-night backpacking trip. While you could get to Floe Lake in a long day hike, doing it as an overnight means that you can also add on the trip to Numa Pass, a worthwhile addition.
Going to Floe Lake in autumn, roughly the 3rd week of September is the perfect time to search out larches. As you can see from the photos, they are spectacular in Autumn.
The trail to Floe Lake starts at – where else – the Floe Lake trailhead, just off highway 93S. This parking lot is usually full with backpackers doing the longer Rockwall trail.
Initially, the Floe Lake trail heads southwest, crosses the bridged Kootenay River, then curves to the northwest. After crossing Floe Creek (bridged) and ascending moderately the trail turns to the southwest, contouring around the southern side of Numa Mountain and gently ascending alongside Floe Creek. This entire area was burned in 2003, but lush vegetation that changes to a variety of intense fall colors has since taken over.
The slope you’re hiking on is in the sun for most of the day, so any early snow should melt off quickly.
After about 5.6mi of relatively easy hiking you encounter the headwall guarding Floe Lake. This switchbacked trail next to a loud cascade ascends 1312ft over a very short distance and is certainly the most difficult part of the trip. The trail is well graded and the actual distance is short, and once reaching the top Floe Lake is just a few hundred meters further.
Floe Lake campground is wonderful and is located on the north side of Floe Lake; a warden campground lies just to the west of the campground. If backpacking, the first two campsites you encounter are by far the best.
Floe Lake is stunning and several larch trees dot the treed shoreline and campground, which is pretty in fall. However, if you want to see larches, almost all the larches lie just north of the campground, on the path that goes to Numa Pass.
While Numa Pass is 1.7mi distant and 984ft higher, the elevation gain is gradual and nearly 0.9mi of the distance is through full larch forest.
Numa Pass itself is broad and treeless and there are many small peaks/bumps nearby that are worth exploring and ascending.
Return to the Floe Lake campground once you’ve explored Numa Pass, and then retrace your steps out to the Floe Lake Trailhead on Day 2.
- Day 1: Trailhead to Floe Lake (one way): 6.6mi, 2264ft
- Day 2: Floe Lake to Numa Pass: 3.4mi, 1017ft and then hike back to car (6.6mi, 2264ft of descent).
At the time of writing the Numa Creek bridge was closed, and is scheduled to be closed for all of 2019. Once the Numa Creek Bridge is open, you could camp at Numa Creek Campground for a 2nd night, and make a weekend circuit on this route.
Book your campgrounds as soon as reservations open on the Parks Canada Backcountry page.
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